Project Logicality: The Reductio Ad Absurdum – Invalid & Valid


Let’s suppose that there are two men engaged in an argument, we’ll call them Mr. A and Mr. B.

They’re engaged in a rather spirited discussion on psi-phenomena, and Mr. A argues that psi is unlikely to exist because truly compelling evidence, in the form of successful replications of psi, regardless of the beliefs or level of enthusiasm of those attempting the replication of the initial studies, does not currently exist.

Note that he is not saying he doesn’t think it’s real because he hasn’t personally experienced it nor seen concrete, direct evidence of its existence, but that despite the immense volume of evidence in the literature, it just isn’t very convincing by reasonable scientific standards, and so one should remain skeptical for the time being.

Nor is he arguing that it’s impossible, only unlikely to exist until convincing evidence under reasonable conditions by reasonably objective research workers indicates otherwise.

In his rebuttal, Mr. B argues that Mr. A, in thinking that psi probably isn’t real, must also believe that dark energy and dark matter must not exist, because Mr. A hasn’t seen them either, and that he must therefore believe that 90% of the universe must not exist.

But wait…

Mr. A said nothing about needing to see psi himself, only that convincing evidence obtained under adequate conditions by non-believers in psi is not there, not yet, saying nothing at all about the evidence needed to establish dark matter or dark energy, both of which have different evidential requirements than psi does, for which almost the entire body of data consists of statistical quirks, convincing or not.

Mr. A’s argument has, as can be seen, been misrepresented, and in such a way as to carry it to an absurd conclusion, the claim that by his own reasoning, most of the universe doesn’t exist.

That last was an example of a fallacious Reductio ad absurdum, and of course there was probably much more said than simply the above. But Mr. B’s argument was fallacious because it led to an absurd conclusion without using the actual chain of reasoning of Mr. A’s argument, by misrepresenting that argument as a straw person.

Later, Mr. A and Mr. B get into a discussion of the nature of reality, in which Mr. B, not liking the direction of the argument, responds to what he feels are the overly absolutist statements of his opponent, in exasperation saying in a rather postmodern fashion, “Reality is nothing!”

There are several ways that this can be interpreted, but in this case, a clarification is not offered, and Mr. A cannot read minds nor thinks at the time to ask for a clarification, so the most likely interpretation, that B is claiming reality doesn’t exist, will have to do.

What does this mean? Can we carry this claim to it’s ultimate conclusion without merely misrepresenting it?

Let’s see…

What is reality? And I don’t mean what is its ultimate nature in fact, but what is the meaning of the word? How is it used?

Reality, by definition, is that which can truly be said to exist, no matter it’s nature or other properties:

a=a: reality is real.

To be real, this quality of existing is essential, whether the thing existing is directly observable or not. If something doesn’t exist, then it’s not part of reality, and if it’s not even imagined, it’s not fantasy either.

What is everything that is real?

We call it the Universe, or the Cosmos, take your pick, though myself, I’m partial to the latter, though for this discussion I’ll use “universe” for the totality of existence.

To say that reality is nothing, in this context implies that the universe doesn’t exist, 100% of it, not just 90% in the straw person argument above, since the universe is everything, with or without any supplementation to it by anything allegedly supernatural.

But if the universe is everything that exists, and everything currently within and originating within the universe, by definition existing as part of its totality, and therefore part of all reality…

Hmmm… I smell something funny about this, don’t you?..

If the ‘reality does not exist’ interpretation holds and the claim were true, then the claim could never be made, since neither of the two persons would even exist themselves in order to have their argument.

But if Mr. B exists to make his argument to Mr. A, and Mr. A exists to hear the argument, then the claim, assuming this interpretation, is simply, obviously, and demonstrably false.

Clearly this is an unacceptable conclusion, at least until such time as Mr. B offers a clarification of his statement that requires a different interpretation of what he said, we must assume what we did know and thus consider this a valid Reductio ad absurdum.

But personal debates among argumentative friends are often messy, impromptu, with little if any ‘rehearsal’ or ‘practice’ beforehand, and unless both are skilled arguers, it is unlikely that normative standards or ideals will reasonably be met without time and practice.

This is just one of the hazards of personal arguments, but it’s something that can be improved if done systematically and with time, skillfully and instinctively, but the rewards of rich and confident testing of our knowledge by argumentation far outstrip any annoyance that may result in the beginning.

About Troythulu

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Monday, 0:20, June 30, 2014, in Reason and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Realm of Empress Musie

Sharmishtha Basu's poetries

colours and words waltz

Colours and words two muses dancing together

Thoughts

Realm of Musie (my muse)

Marianne Talbot Philosophy

Marianne is Director Of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education

La Audacia de Aquiles

El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto

Optimal Human Modulation

Your Space To Defrag

Words on a blackboard

In a world of poems, words steal love and put it on a blackboard

Math Outlet

Math Resources For Elementary Teachers

Kurt Brindley

waxing poetics...fervently so ------------------------------------- status: WEWing Review of A NOTE, brb | music: day 3 of continuous twinforksmusic.com | mood: (´-`).?oO( ... )

Sharmishtha Basu

paintings, poems and thoughts

Author -Carole Parkes

Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art

Some Bad Plankton

creative outlet plugged in

kvm88

I don't want believe I want to know. - Carl Sagan

Physics and Art

The strange case of Dr. August and Mr. von Orth.

Charlotte Cuevas, Author

Current writing projects: 52 Flashes of Fiction & The 365 Poetry Project: Year 2

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Deidra Alexander's Blog

I have people to kill, lives to ruin, plagues to bring, and worlds to destroy. I am not the Angel of Death. I'm a fiction writer.

lalocabrujita

Zingendewoorden

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands.

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf

My ramblings about books and other random things.

Radhika Mukherjee

Writer. Editor. Dreamer. Eco-Feminist.

The Nerd Nebula

The Nucleus of the Universe for all Nerd Hacks!

The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Sucheta the Scribbler

Random. Purely Random. And then some more...

Eric Ian Huffman

I've come to Write.

Woodland Rambles

A writer, a dog, and miles of trails

A.D. Martin

writing - novels - film - television - video games - other stuff

Sausey is Sexy...

Humor, Dating, Sex, and a Whole bunch of Sause...

bdhesse

A writing WordPress.com site

1 SIGFRIDSSON

ON = TIME

UP!::urban po'E.Tree(s)

by po'E.T. and the colors of pi

Mik Mob's Music Mass

share your favourite tunes with The Mob

Something Like a Storybook

This is where Morgan Bradham shares stuff.

Project i•Am•You

Awareness. Lifestyle. Motivation. Spirituality. Inspiration.

hessianwithteeth

This site is all about ideas

Zebra Humor

The world's biggest collection of zebra jokes!

koniramm

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Katzenworld

All about (our) cats. Food, toys and other cat related products

nadiaharhash

living in the shoes of a woman

Ray Jay Perreault

Science Fiction writing about aliens with lives you can relate to.

Spirituality Exploration Today

Delving into the cross roads of rationality and intuition

The Wrong Triangle

Obscurum per obscurius | Ignotum per ignotius

Daily (w)rite

A Daily Ritual of Writing

olufunkekolapo's Blog

You are on Olufunke Kolapo's blog...where talent and personality bring forth quality.

Reagent Post

Expanding Perspective and Exploring ideas

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,104 other followers

%d bloggers like this: